The first time the F-14 Tomcat's gun was used in combat was during '12 Strong' - We Are The Mighty
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The first time the F-14 Tomcat’s gun was used in combat was during ’12 Strong’

Those familiar with the Chris Hemsworth film 12 Strong will know it recounts the incredible tale of the Special Forces team that rode on horseback against the Taliban to avenge 9/11. Depicted in the film is a Close Air Support gun run performed by an Air Force F-15 Eagle during the Battle of Mazar-i-Sharif. In actuality, the CAS mission was flown by a Navy F-14D Tomcat. Moreover, it was the first time that the F-14’s gun was used in combat.

The first time the F-14 Tomcat’s gun was used in combat was during ’12 Strong’
Special Forces soldiers and Air Force Forward Air Controllers rode with the Northern Alliance to attack al-Qaida and the Taliban after 9/11 (U.S. Army)

On November 5, 2001, Cdr. Chip “Biff” King, Commanding Officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 “Black Lions,” and his Radar Intercept Officer, Mike “Tung” Peterson, flew a mission over Afghanistan from the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). Along with his wingman, King expended all of his bombs and prepared to return to the ship when he received an urgent radio call.

The first time the F-14 Tomcat’s gun was used in combat was during ’12 Strong’
The F-14 carried an internally-mounted 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon on the left side of its nose (Miguel Ortiz)

On the ground, a small American Special Forces team and their Northern Alliance allies were engaged with a numerically superior enemy consisting of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters. The Forward Air Controller on the ground requested immediate Close Air Support to push the enemy back from their position. King informed the FAC that he only had his 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon with which to perform CAS. The FAC responded that he needed immediate danger close ordnance on his position and cleared King for a strafing run.

The first time the F-14 Tomcat’s gun was used in combat was during ’12 Strong’
Special Forces soldiers with Northern Alliance fighters in Mazar-i-Sharif, November 2001 (U.S. Army)

With this, the Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft cleared King to descend to a low altitude in the valley while his wingman remained up high to provide cover. The FAC reported that he was going off air as the friendly force retreated, highlighting the desperate situation on the ground. “Cdr. King related to me that he watched in awe through his HUD as the enemy troops charged in the open toward friendly forces,” wrote artist Rick Herter whom King commissioned to draw and paint the historic action.

The first time the F-14 Tomcat’s gun was used in combat was during ’12 Strong’
The preliminary drawing of “Meting Out Justice!” depicting King’s historic gun run (Rick Herter)

King lined up his F-14 and began the first of what would be four strafing runs on the advancing enemy. He recounted to Herter that he could clearly see the enemy fighters on foot, on horseback, and using trucks with large guns. In fact, King and Peterson were so low that they could see the enemy firing back at them as the Tomcat’s gun poured 20mm high explosive rounds into their charge. Thanks to King’s CAS mission, the enemy attack was blunted and the friendly forces were able to retreat safely.

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